Seven Psychopaths is the latest film from In Bruges writer/ director Martin McDonagh. While In Bruges was a wonderfully melancholic crime drama with a sly sense of humour, Seven Psychopaths is a more bizarre beast as it both indulges and parodies the clichés of violent gangster and serial killer movies.
In this film Colin Farrell plays Marty a struggling alcoholic writer desperately trying to come up with ideas for a screenplay. Unwisely, he teams up with slimy buddy and dog thief Billy (Sam Rockwell) and together they begin to create a collection of stories about various crazed murderers. Unfortunately for Farrell, fantasy and reality converge as he becomes tangled up with a sadistic gangster (Woody Harrelson) and various serial killers including a very weird, bunny rabbit-loving Tom Waits.
With its intersecting story lines and its odd mix of jokiness and gory violence this film seems strategically designed to appeal to Tarantino fan boys and could have been one of the many films that popped up in the wake of Pulp Fiction in the mid-90’s. Unlike Pulp Fiction, however, the pieces of the narrative puzzle in Seven Psychopaths don’t always fit together perfectly which tends to make the film disjointed.
While paying homage to ultra-violent films, Seven Psychopaths also parodies the crime/violence genre with self-referential jokes and acerbic observations about the movie industry. Unfortunately, despite its attempts at post-modern self-awareness, Seven Psychopaths falls into some of the same traps as standard action movies particularly in its superficial treatment of women. It’s half-hearted attempt to acknowledge this doesn’t really constitute a great leap forward for the action genre.
While this film will no doubt please cinema goers with a taste for blood, some audience members will find this film’s cavalier attitude toward violent death and human suffering repugnant. Some scenes are exceptionally gory and verge on torture porn. The fact that the film infuses these violent scenes with a jokey style and attempted ironic humour doesn’t counteract the bad taste some of these violent scenes leave.
The film does, however, feature a remarkable all-star cast which in addition to Farrell, Rockwell and Harrelson includes a magnificently weird Christopher Walken as Rockwell’s dog thief buddy, and Harry Dean Stanton as a sinister preacher man.
Those not taken with the film’s violence can at least revel in the procession of bizarre characters, the stunning desert locations and a terrific soundtrack that features artists like The Walkmen and Hank Williams.
Nick’s rating: Three stars.
Classification: MA 15+
Director(s): Martin McDonagh
Release date: 8th Nov 2012
Running time: 110 mins.